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While watching Barclay's Premier League matches on the Fox Soccer Channel, the announcers often identify an object by name immediately after using a pronoun. For example, in a match occuring right now, I heard:

  • They are dangerous, Liverpool.
  • He was clever, Suarez.

Is there a term to describe this structure? Also, how did it evolve? I've gotten used to it and can appreciate the clarity it provides for a listener, but I wonder why they bother using the pronoun at all.

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2 Answers 2

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The term is Cataphora, described here. It's one of many devices for moving your words around in a sentence to shift the emphasis. In speech it's also a handy device for clarifying your pronoun references when you screw up.

As far as I know, it's been around forever; a quick Google finds that An Introduction to the Grammar of Old English: A Systemic Functional Approach, by Michael Cummings, includes section "7.2.1.2 Anaphora and cataphora".

A favorite instance for me is this:

He’s tough, ma’am,—tough is J. B.; tough and devilish sly. —Dombey and Son

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That's interesting :) –  coleopterist Sep 16 '12 at 8:07
    
It's interesting to me that I only hear this structure used on Brittish content (from BBC America or PBS). However, I have occasionally heard it used by American announcers broadcasting other soccer matches, so it's making it "across the pond". –  BellevueBob Sep 16 '12 at 14:42

The normal word order found in writing is often altered in this way in speech. When a word or phrase occurs at the start of a sentence in a way that would not be expected in writing, as in your examples, it is known as a head. When it occurs at the end it is known as a tail. The forms are described by Ronald Carter in his chapter on ‘Grammar and Spoken English’ in ‘Applying English Grammar: Functional and Corpus Approaches’, edited by Coffin and others:

Forms which are termed HEADS. They occur at the beginning of clauses and help listeners orient to a topic:

The white house on the corner, is that where she lives?

That girl, Jill, her sister, she works in our office.

Paul, in this job that he’s got now, when he goes into the office he’s never quite surewhere he’s going to be sent.

A friend of mine, his uncle had the taxi firm when we had the wedding.

His cousin in Beccles, her friend, his parents bought him a Ford Escort for his birthday.

Forms which are termed TAILS. They occur at the end of clauses, normally echoing an antecedent pronoun and help to reinforce what we are saying:

She’s a very good swimmer, Jenny is.

It’s difficult to eat, isn’t it, spaghetti?

I’m going to have steak and fries, I am.

It can leave you feeling very weak, it can, though, apparently, shingles, can’t it?

Because these are features of speech rather than writing, the only to know when they were first used would be to track their use in dialogue in works of fiction. It would make a nice little research project for someone to see if they occur in Chaucer.

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